The Comeback Kid

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
-George Sheehan

I am a beautiful work in progress.


I try to keep telling myself this, but there are moments of the day, when the doubts about my ability to run…run like the wind…run like I used to…they all just creep into my brain and it’s hard to get past that negativity.  I guess I got so used to people telling me as of late that “I can’t” do this and “I shouldn’t” do this…and those little bits of negative talk are really starting to take hold in my brain.  The fighter inside me has been struggling.  I’m starting to hear those “can’ts and “won’ts” and…you know…I’m starting to really believe that any sort of comeback…isn’t going to happen.

This…is it.

For anyone who has suffered an athletic injury (or an injury of any sort), you may know what I’m talking about.  I get discouraged so easily these days.  I go out for a run, and at the slightest inkling of pain, I slow…I stop…I don’t push.  I don’t want to be where I was 2 months ago.  I don’t want to be able to only lift weights and swim.  I don’t love weights or swimming.  I love to run.  But, right now, it’s hard to love something when most everyone tells you that you’re going about it wrong or that you just shouldn’t be doing it.  I should be running…because I can run.  My podiatrist gave me permission to run.  I’m building into it via an altered training plan from the NYRR…with much slower paces and much easier distances/runs.  And I thought I was okay with this…until I was told I wasn’t being smart about my comeback.

Lately, every post I have made has been followed by the simple sentiment of “#comebackkid.”  Because, honestly, this injury warrants its own hashtag.  In a sense, it’s not even an injury.  My foot became inflamed.  No stress fracture, like originally thought…just pain.  Enough that I couldn’t run and sometimes could hardly walk.  I’ve never been off running for that long and it was hard.  I felt like I was losing fitness, because any cardio save for laps in the swimming pool was not allowed.  I was placed on an anti-inflammatory and after a week…I was told I could resume running.  It was painful.  Every single run for 30 days was still twinging and hurting.  I wasn’t running as fast…or as hard…or even really following the altered plan.  I was just…doing some miles.  And this past Friday, as my prescription was coming up for refill, I called my podiatrist and told him the prescription wasn’t working.  I was still hurting.  He gave me samples of a different medicine to try.  I started it on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning…

I was meeting up with my friends Matthew, Patrick, and Brant for a 13.1 mile run.  Birthday half marathon, woohoo!  No medal…just a run.  A simple…easy…run.  I had purchased new shoes…because so many people said that when they had foot pain, this particular brand, Hoka’s, helped.  I wore them out…my feet felt unwieldy and…rather clown-like.  I tried to ignore the Bozo-factor and just see if these did anything to help my foot.  The four of us set out…and I immediately fell behind.  Matthew was gracious enough to stick it out at my pace.  By Mile 5, I told him I was ready to stop and call my roommate to come and pick me up…but he talked me through it and in the end…with only one walk break around Mile 11, he got me through all of those miles.  Honestly, I couldn’t have finished that run without him.  Sweaty hugs followed.  I was so glad he was there.  I would have been left in the dust by Patrick and Bryant.  I’m not there yet.  I hope to get there soon.

Saturday morning was heart-wrenching.   A half marathon used to be nothing for me.  And here I was, struggling to make it.  Fighting my own thoughts that were telling me to quit and give up.  Two months off from running does take a toll on your fitness…it does.  Regardless of how active I managed to be and the cross-training I worked in…it wasn’t the same as running, so running has naturally felt harder as I’ve gotten back into it.  I don’t know what it was about Saturday…but the level of accomplishment for running 13.1 miles in 1:51:36 was completely shadowed by the fact that I wasn’t running it as I felt I should be.  I felt like I was making excuses.  I wasn’t.  I was stating facts.  I have been injured.  I haven’t run for 2 months.  I can’t immediately hop into a sub-8 minute pace.  But, runners are so numbers oriented.  We’re perfectionists.  We base so much of our training on those numbers…and the numbers I am now assigned are back to the paces I would have run three years ago…back when I started.

It’s like starting over.  And that’s what has been nagging at my mind.  I have a marathon coming up…and I’m struggling sometimes with 4 miles.  Not because I hurt…nope…because in my mind, because so many times I was told I can’t…I am starting to believe…I can’t.  And that’s what hurts the most.

For the record, I came out of the run with no foot pain…just a little stiffness in the quads.  I figured that was from new shoes.  I took all of Sunday off to recover (no gym either!).  And this morning, I laced up the Hoka’s again for my three mile easy paced run.  By Mile 2, I was done with them.  I love the soft landing they provide and the stability…but they feel so heavy and my steps and stride and feet feel so clunky.  I paused my run, went up to my apartment and switched into my Newton’s for the final mile.  I felt so much better, lighter, and confident in those.  So…guess what’s getting sent back for a full refund?

Bye, bye Hoka’s.

My goals have definitely shifted since this injury, but that doesn’t mean that I’m okay with them.  I’m disappointed…naturally.  And I think it’s only right that I feel this way.  I’m upset at my body…for not only not being in marathon shape, but for betraying me like it did.  I’m mad at myself…because, despite having done everything right…everything I was supposed to be doing…I, mentally, am a mess.  Physically, I’m getting there.  Well…some days are better than others.  But…it’s a slow process.  But those voices…the ones that have told me all this time that I can’t and that I shouldn’t…they’re winning.  The proof came in my last two runs.  I’ve tried to shake it off, but when I can feel tears in my eyes, not due to pain, but due to that little voice in my head now echoing those can’ts and shouldn’ts…I realize…they’ve won.  And all those negative thoughts are now my own.  I can ignore the voices of others to a point…but when their words start to become my own…confidence takes a nosedive…and I start questioning my own abilities.

Comebacks are hard…but I’m a fighter.  Right now, the important thing is to put one foot in front of the other.  The perfectionist in me…that competitive voice…it looks at my numbers and I immediately want to compare them to where I was last year…and I know I can’t.  But I do.  Like I said…runner’s live their lives off of numbers and statistics.  It’s hard to separate myself from the statistics I recorded last year.  It’s hard not to compare myself, not just to where I was last year, but to others, who are getting stronger and faster…where as I feel 3 easy miles at a pace that would have been easy a year ago…now feels hard.  It messes with the mind…which then messes with the confidence…which then only leads me down this path of depression and low self-esteem.  And a definite drop in confidence.

A change in goals doesn’t always make for a happy runner.  But it’s necessary.  The hard part is wrapping my brain around it…and understanding that it’s time to focus on myself…not on others.  It’s time to tune out the negativity…from other people, but mostly from myself.  It’s time to take charge…and just focus on building myself back up.  The confidence will come back…as will the speed.  Patience and positivity is what I need most.  Because it will help get me back on track…even if that road is a little rocky along the way.

It’s called a comeback for a reason, right?


One Reply to “The Comeback Kid”

  1. You know your body and abilities better than anyone else. Do you think 6 weeks is enough time to build up to 20-22 miles and taper for NY? I wouldn’t push it Karen, expecially if you are on meds and still feeling pain.

    I know NY is big on your heart, but isn’t Boston even bigger? Boston would be the course to be the for real comebackkid. NY seems rushed.

    Just think, a year ago you ran your 1st marathon and ran another one like 2 weeks later. You are a runner. Period. The speed and endurance will return after you feel 100%. I would hate to see you push through pain for NY not make it for Boston.

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